It’s Friday night and, tomorrow, my wife and I will be attending the funeral of 27-year-old Bobby Vargo in Kipling. Bobby is Austin’s older brother. Austin stayed with us as a 17-year-old goaltender with the Yorkton Harvest three years ago. It was our first experience with a hockey billet and one we wouldn’t trade for the world. Austin had a history of bad experiences in Notre Dame and in Saskatoon both on and off the ice. I could tell right away, he just wanted to fit in. He’s a super kid, and comes from an incredible family that shares our older school beliefs on making your children work for their achievements instead of having a constant sense of entitlement. From day one of Austin entering our home, we found him to be delightful and within just a few days it felt like he simply belonged in our house. My little brother? A grown up son? Hard to say. But, there was definitely a connection with him and upon getting to know his mom and dad throughout the year, my wife, kids, and I all just felt like we had adopted one another’s families and we would remain close long after hockey.
Austin must have felt it too, because last year he drove in from Kipling in December to attend our kids’ Christmas concerts. You know, the concerts mom and dad don’t even want to go to. He was volunteering to come! Last year, he drove out to our campsite at Canora Beach and slept in the tent for three days all by himself just so he could visit with us. That’s Austin in a nutshell. Because I know that’s how he was raised, it’s not a stretch to say that Bobby and their sister Ashley are cut from the same cloth.
Last weekend, Bobby passed away in a car accident on his way home from work in South Dakota. I am a rarity in that I have never lost a close friend or relative in a tragic circumstance. I don’t know what it’s like. I can only imagine. What I struggle the most with is the possibility that a member of my family might walk out the door to go to school or work some morning and end up not ever returning. Have you ever started the odd day on the wrong foot and gotten into an argument or negative situation with important people around you? Is that what you would want your last words to that special someone to be? Think about the poor family of the 7-year-old boy who died during the parade in Preeceville this summer. Who would ever consider that going to a parade may be an event that changes your family forever? I will even use the example of our 7-year-old daughter, Mallory, the day she broke both of her wrists this past July. One of the last things I did with her that day before the accident was tease her about not being able to butter her own food at the dinner table. She got extremely upset and cried about it, while I had a pretty good laugh. I felt terrible afterward.
I can’t even begin to comprehend what kind of week it’s been for the Vargo family. And, I don’t know what it’s going to be like long after friends and family pay their respects tomorrow (Saturday). One thing I do know is that human nature is to be supportive. But, after one pays his/her respects it’s also human nature to assume your obligation to the grieving is over. However, for a family that loses a loved one, the grieving never ends. You get more used to not having that person around, but you don’t miss them any less just because more time has gone by. I hope that, although, my human nature is sure to kick in and I’ll eventually just carry on with my own life just like I always have; that the Vargos don’t assume they have to go through this alone. Three or four weeks from now, a lot of the people that will be at the funeral will be carrying on as they always have. The Vargos won’t ever be the same. I don’t have any way of knowing which days are tougher to get through than others; but should those days come to pass, I hope the Vargos know they can pick up the phone and get a hold of our family and we will, absolutely, be there for them no matter what. And, I hope they read this because it’s one thing to pay someone lip service; but something entirely different when you can read the words on paper. They tend to last a bit longer in the memory bank.
So if you know someone touched by tragedy and quite a bit of time has gone by, I’m thinking it’s probably not a bad idea to do something nice just for the heck of it. You never know. You might get lucky and pick a day where that someone needed the gesture most.
Nice person mentions this week are pretty obvious: Glen, Lynn, and Austin Vargo; KaAnn, Hudson, and Baby Vargo; Ashley, Scott, and Carson Caouette; Eva Clarke; Travis and Judy Silvey; Jason Silvey; Justin, Cassie, Lynnox, and Leighton House.